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Consumer confidence fell in January after two straight months of big gains as Americans became more worried about their incomes, rising gas prices and overall business conditions, a private research group reported.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index is at 61.1, down from a revised 64.8 in December. That comes after the index rose by more than 20 points last month from 40.9 in October amid growing signs of an improving economy.

Economists watch the confidence numbers closely because consumers’ spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity. A reading of 90 indicates a healthy economy, a level that hasn’t been reached since the recession began in 2007. The current reading shows how quickly Americans’ confidence can wane in the still-fragile economy.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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